02 Jul Preparing for Peace of Mind at End of Life : End-of-Life Doulas, Part 1
Maureen Kures, CEO and Founder of Radiant Mourning, hosted a webinar for our staff and graciously agreed to spend some time with us and educate us on what end-of-life doulas do and how they can help with the end-of-life process.
In this three-part interview, Maureen shares her own personal stories and experiences that lead her to do the work that she does today.
WALH: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. I would love for you to share a bit about what you do and what you shared with us in the webinar that you presented to our team.
Maureen Kures: Yes, we hosted a webinar on grief, stress, and self-care. It’s such a challenging time for caregivers.
WALH: I think what you are doing is so essential for them. I tell them when I’m speaking with our caregivers that I am in such awe of what they do every day.
Maureen Kures: My background is nursing, but to be a caregiver at someone’s home, that’s a big deal, and it can be really challenging too. I had the resources of the hospital and all that. But they’re there on their own with the people, and they get attached, and there’s a lot that goes with it.
WALH: You are an end-of-life doula. Is that correct?
Maureen Kures: Well, I’m not actually a doula. I’m an end-of-life consultant. I am part of a doula collective. There’s a group of six of us that we’ve put together. Four of them are doulas. We are about educating people about end-of-life. And then I have my own business where I work with families to get all of their end-of-life planning documented and decided, getting everything in writing and then taking it to their families. I facilitate family meetings on getting all of it discussed, so they’re all on the same page. They might not have to agree, but they can honor everyone’s wishes when the inevitable happens.
WALH: That is something that can be very tricky.
Maureen Kures: Yes, it can. It’s highly emotional, and we don’t like to think of the end, but I think that with COVID, this past year, it’s just shown us all that anything can happen at any time. People that were fine one day are sick and on a ventilator a few days later, and it really changes things. And I’ve just seen too many times people that didn’t have those conversations or didn’t know, and they were guessing and stressed and families divided. That’s my passion: getting families talking about this stuff before it’s ever necessary and to help take the fear away from it.
WALH: It’s crucial to get these things in order now, no matter how young or old you are.
Maureen Kures: Well, you know, isn’t that true? I’ve been connected with a gentleman whose wife died unexpectedly, and they had talked a little bit in generalizations. Still, he had no idea how to access any of her stuff, and it’s caused a lot of turmoil and chaos when you should just be able to grieve. And my goal is that people will just be able to grieve because they’ll know where everything is.
I had another person whose husband died unexpectedly, and she had no idea how to get to his information. And everything’s in these phones that we carry. She didn’t know the password; she didn’t know anything. The chaplain that was on duty with the emergency response team asked, “Do they have a fingerprint?” So, they had to take the dead body and put the finger to the phone, and it unlocked the phone. Luckily the spouse was there because that was where his life was.
WALH: Trying to get the information you need in a time of tragedy and loss can be challenging if you are not prepared.
Maureen Kures: This is especially true if the people are still alive and can’t speak for themselves and can’t make decisions. That happened to someone I loved dearly. She ended up unresponsive after an emergency and surgery, and her kids and I were going around trying to find where her life was. She lived here on the West coast, and her kids all lived on the East coast, and it was awful, just awful.
WALH: How is it that you got into this line of work?
Maureen Kures: I started my nursing career as an oncology nurse thinking, “Yeah, I’m going to get out of here as fast as I can!” because who wants to work with dying people? But I fell in love with it. And then, during my nursing career, I was primarily working in fields that pertain to end of life; hospice, oncology hospice, bone marrow transplant, and then in the ICU. I never thought I would do anything like I’m doing now. But through a chance conversation that started from a response to a post on Facebook, I ended up going down this road and seeing that families really are destroyed over end-of-life issues that they haven’t had conversations around. And through encouragement from some people I was in a Mastermind with, I’ve gone down this road, and it’s become a mission.
Then I connected with this group about two and a half years ago, and we formed the Gentle Passage Doula Collective and working and educating people on end-of-life issues is just our passion. If you asked me if I would be doing anything like this, I thought I would think no way. But it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s something I’ve always talked about and been passionate about and encouraged people to get their healthcare directives and things in order. But I just never knew I would be doing this as a business.
WALH: Can you tell us a bit about what an end-of-life doula is and what they do?
Maureen Kures: There are so many different roles at the end of life and that a Doula can play. They can be hands-on with the family, helping the family transition with their clients, family members, and loved ones through the end-of-life process. They can do hands-on care. They’re there for non-medical support. So they don’t do anything medical, and they don’t do medication, they don’t do anything like that. They can be there to perform daily living tasks and give emotional support, massage, things like that. They can also help perform rituals. Rituals around the end of life are really big. They can also help with legacy work as they transition to their next journey in the afterlife. They’re there to fill a number of non-medical roles. And then another part of doula work is education. We’re really passionate about educating—getting all the work done prior to ever needing a doula.
We have three aspects to our doula collective:
- We help educate patients and clients prior to working with a doula.
- We help them get important documents in order
- And we help with legacy work.
We help with physician visit assistance because so many people go to their physicians with no idea really what to ask or what to do, especially if they’ve had a diagnosis such as cancer or some other life-limiting illness. They’re usually just blindsided, so we help them with that.
We do a lot of advocacy work on their behalf during, and then during the actual dying process, being there for the client and the families through all of that, working with rituals, and then at the after-death experience, helping with things like funerals, grief, care, all of that. So, it’s all-encompassing through the journey pre-, during, and post-death.
Maureen Kures is the CEO and Founder of Radiant Mourning. She’s on a mission to guide one million families to decide, document, and discuss their final chapter plans to bring peace for those who live on. As an oncology, hospice, and ICU nurse for 35 years, she was privileged to provide end-of-life care for many. She saw the devastation that occurred when families hadn’t had candid conversations with their family members. Now she facilitates those conversations with families around the world and leads virtual group workshops to replace drama, trauma, and chaos with calm, ease, and peace.